can you legally keep a hummingbird as a pet

Can You Keep A Hummingbird As A Pet?

Hummingbirds, with their jewel-like appearance and elusive nature, are captivating creatures. However, is it legal to keep them as pets?

Is It Legal To Keep A Hummingbird As A Pet?

Although they are small and often seen in backyards, owning a hummingbird as a pet in the United States is illegal. Unfortunately, even though they are unique birds, keeping them as pets without a permit is impossible. Therefore, the simple answer to whether you can keep a hummingbird as a pet is no. The only way to legally have a hummingbird is by being a wildlife rehabilitator.

It's not advisable to keep hummingbirds as pets because they are wild animals that cannot be domesticated. Attempting to care for a hummer may harm the bird despite your best efforts. When confined indoors, a hummingbird can become sad and depressed. In their natural habitat, hummingbirds spend a certain amount of time inside their nests and a certain amount of time outside. 

They must search for food, hunt, and interact with other hummingbirds. These opportunities are necessary for them to become strong and die prematurely. If they survive, they will spend the rest of their shortened lives as unhealthy captive birds.

Why Can’t I Own Hummingbirds as Pets?

On September 27, 1918, the United States ratified the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), a crucial law safeguarding migratory birds. The MBTA protects all migratory birds on public and private property, including their nests and eggs.

It is prohibited by the MBTA for anyone to pursue, hunt, take, capture, or kill any migratory bird without obtaining a permit. However, game birds on uncultivated land are exempt from this law, and waterfowl shooting is permitted during the fall hunting season. The MBTA also grants wildlife inspectors the power to uphold its provisions throughout the United States. The MBTA was established on July 3, 1918, as a response to worries that the plume trade was depleting the nation’s bird population.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protected birds from commercial exploitation. It is the most comprehensive and practical wildlife law in U.S. history.

What Happens if You Catch and Keep a Hummingbird?

The enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 is the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as delegated by Congress. U.S. district courts handle court cases related to this act. However, appeals can be made to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or the United States Supreme Court.

Breaking this law can lead to severe consequences, including a fine of $100,000 and a maximum prison sentence of one year. If you are found guilty of killing or selling migratory birds, which are endangered species, the penalties are even harsher. You could face a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years.

The MBTA, one of the earliest federal environmental laws, established a system that safeguards birds without violating private property rights and remains relevant today.

Caring For A Hummingbird As A Pet

When it comes to keeping a hummingbird as a pet, it is essential to understand that these birds require great care and attention. While they may be small and delicate, they are also incredibly curious and active. To ensure your hummingbird pet is healthy and happy, here are some tips on caring for them. 

What Kind of Environment Is Suitable for a Hummingbird as a Pet?

Hummingbirds need a safe, warm, and comfortable environment to thrive. When setting up the area for your pet, provide plenty of space for them to fly and explore. You should also provide a variety of perches, branches, and other surfaces for them to land on. Additionally, you should make sure their nest is not too close to any windows or doors, as this can be dangerous for the bird. 

At QuackUps, we understand the importance of creating a suitable environment for your hummingbird companion. Our QuackUps 5.5" Hummingbird Home™ with Nesting Fibers is designed to provide a comfortable and secure space for hummingbirds to rest and nest. 

Its thoughtful design and high-quality materials make it a perfect addition to any hummingbird-friendly setup. Plus, take advantage of our Solar-Powered Hummingbird Fountain, a mesmerizing addition that mimics the sound of trickling water and attracts hummingbirds with its gentle movement and glimmer.

What to do if you find a hummingbird on the ground?

If you come across a hummingbird on the ground, it is likely deceased. However, if you find one that is still alive, here are the instructions to follow:

  • If a hummingbird is not on the ground, it is likely safe on a bush, tree, or porch.
  • Don't touch a hummingbird found on the ground or still alive; leave it be. Please ensure that no dogs are present and that they are securely confined.
  • If you see a bird on the ground, don't touch it. It could be sick or hurt; moving it might worsen things.
  • Contact a wildlife rehabilitator and notify them that you have photographed the bird.


  1. Migratory bird treaty act of 1918: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (2020, April 26).,U.S.%20Fish%20and%20Wildlife%20Service. 
  2. Kristina and Rozan (1970) Full title name:  detailed discussion on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Animal Law Legal Center. Available at: (Accessed: 11 September 2023).
  3. Bald and golden eagle protection act: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 11 September 2023). 
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